What is all this juice and all this joy?—Gerard Manley Hopkins
O to have my life henceforth a poem of new joys!
To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, float on
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?– Mary Oliver
That is Gerard Manley Hopkins, Walt Whitman, and Mary Oliver, In just spring—when the world is mud luscious and puddle wonderful–e.e. cummings’s paean to Spring, and his, this is the sun’s birthday, and this is the birth day of life, and love, and of wings, and of the gay great happening illimitably earth . . . on our Poetry Slow Down, and this is your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, with Producer Sara Hughes, and Zappa Johns, in our radiomonterey.com studios, in this wild and wet time of year, drenched and falling down and rising up, rivers and mountains, flowers, hearts, there are meltings and floods and blossoms, it’s tremendous transitions, this is the birthday time of my buddy, life companion, the elusive woodsman, my own Natty Bummpo, me his Chingachgook, and this is the time of year I learned Spring, coming from Los Angeles to Indiana, and at the same moment, so they are inextricably connected in my mind, when I met my husband, walked with him in the rain and sleet and wind, and wrote him a poem . . . his birthday our first date . . . . . so that was 44 years ago . . . and what I realize is that all my poems for him since reference his request to write him a poem, or my consciousness of the poem itself, since our first talk was about poetry, in fact, on the merits of Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm, Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows, and a play Blood Wedding by Garcia Lorca, who befriended and influenced Pablo Neruda. I am going to share some of these poems with you, on our theme of spring, yes, but also on love in spring—so there’s wind and rain and budding. And since it’s his milestone birthday, we’ll have to have a few poems about fishing, and birds, bears, and lions, and earth, including gardening and weeding—the excitement of seemingly unlikely recurrency, seeing tulips and daffodils and buds everywhere out of what had looked so bleak, so hard, so bare, so battered and even wounded and suffering—and we’ll hear poets wipe soil from their hands to pen their thoughts on the inextricable connections between Creation, the act of creating, and co-creating Truth and Beauty out of earthly experience, between what is sown and grown and pruned and tended, between mortal and immortal beauty. Today and next week’s April is the cruelest show We’ll hear from TS and Horace, of course, Shakespeare, hear hear!, Thoreau, chanticleer, he’ll crow, Emily Dickinson, and her twin one, Whitman, Housman, ‘n Billy Collins, ‘n Gerard Manley Hopkins, and speaking of in and kin, W.S. Merwin, Theodore Roetkhe, not to mention Charles Tripi, yippee, Amy King, Louise Gluck, Hafiz, James Wright, so right, Mary Oliver, we love her, Pablo Neruda, our own time’s Buddha, Gerard Stern, it’s his turn, Yeats’ one of the greats, Stanley Kunitz, his tune is my Lizst, and more, galore—SCORE!
Our music today combines themes of that time of year of early spring, a hard time, still cold and rainy and snowy and icy and muddy and totally unbelievable and improbable buds and bursts of color and signs of new life, fragile and mighty at once—Conni Elisor’s Blackberry Winter, a term taken from Margaret Mead’s autobiography, itself taken from her own reading of poetry, Morten Lauridsen Sure on This Shining Night
Sure on This Shining Night is taken from the composer’s choral cycle called Nocturnes, and like Samuel Barber’s art song, is set to the words of Knoxville Tennessee poet James Agee (1909-1955). Once again we hear that words, when set to music, take on a transcendence that moves us to a higher realm.
Sure on this shining night Of star-made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth, Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder, Wandr’ing far alone Of shadows on the stars.
We’ll hear Van Morrison’s “Cleaning Windows,” Taj Mahal’s fishing anthem, Withered Hand’s “New Gods,” Mel Carter’s “Hold Me,” and other lyrics of striving to make the most of our days always coming up with something new, like the poets. Thank you for joining me, Professor Barbara Mossberg, for radiomonterey.com, podcast at BarbaraMossberg.com, Produced by Sara Hughes and Zappa Johns. Next week, our annual show, April, the cruelest ever, on Easter Sunday, resurrection, rebirth, birth, and howling hellos at this life.
© Barbara Mossberg 2015